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Responsible Mining in the Elk Valley

Teck operates four steelmaking coal mines in the Elk Valley of British Columbia which employ over 4,000 people. We raise our families in the valley, fish and swim in the river and care deeply about ensuring the environment is protected. That’s why we’re focused on responsible mining and ensuring that the environment and water quality are maintained in the valley now and for generations to come.

Water Quality in the Elk Valley

Teck has made significant progress towards achieving the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan, a long-term approach to address the management of selenium and other substances released by mining activities in the Elk Valley.

Our goal is to stabilize and reverse the trend of selenium and other substances to ensure the ongoing health of the watershed, while at the same time allowing for continued sustainable mining in the region.

Our first water treatment facility is successfully treating 7.5 million litres of water per day at our Line Creek operation and we are seeing reductions in selenium and nitrate concentrations downstream. We are applying what we have learned to build a 20 million litre per day facility at our Fording River operation which is under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Our first saturated rock fill facility has been successfully treating up to 10 million litres of mine-affected water per day at our Elkview Operations, achieving near-complete removal of selenium and nitrate. We are working now to double treatment capacity at the Elkview saturated rock fill to 20 million litres per day.

In 2021, we expect to have capacity to treat up to 47.5 million litres per day and anticipate further significant reductions of selenium and nitrate as the Fording River and Elkview facilities come on line.

Teck will have invested approximately $742 million by the end of 2020 to implement the EVWQP and we estimate spending a further $350-$400 million on water treatment from 2021 to 2024.

Nitrate reduction

Our comprehensive research and development program led to the development of a new nitrate prevention technique that uses liners that prevent explosives with nitrate from coming in contact with water. When fully implemented, the majority of blast holes will contain a liner that will significantly reduce nitrate at the source and help to protect water quality. 

 

Download the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan Five Year Update

Water quality challenges in the Elk Valley are connected to the long history of mining in the region. The mining process generates large quantities of leftover rock that contains naturally-occurring substances such as selenium, an element that is essential for human and animal health in small amounts. Water from both precipitation and runoff flows through these rock piles and carries selenium and other substances, such as nitrate, into the local watershed. If present in high enough concentrations in the watershed, these substances can adversely affect aquatic health.

 

We are conducting extensive studies and monitoring of water quality and aquatic health which includes regular water quality sampling at approximately 100 stations in the Elk Valley. To date, regional monitoring indicates that current levels of selenium and other substances are not impacting populations of fish or birds. Monitoring shows that selenium concentrations have been reduced downstream of our operational water treatment facility at Line Creek as a result of water treatment and we expect further significant reductions as the Fording and Elkview facilities come on line.

Sharing Monitoring Results
Teck is committed to being transparent with stakeholders as we implement the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan. We make data and results from ongoing water quality, aquatic and animal health research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Plan available, and we will continue to share those results going forward. This includes Annual Reports completed by an Environmental Monitoring Committee comprised of an independent scientist and representatives from the B.C. Government, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Interior Health Authority, and Teck. Monitoring reports related to the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan can be found here. 

2019 Fish Counts

As part of our planned monitoring, the results of the 2019 Westslope Cutthroat Trout fish counts were 74% lower for juveniles and 93% lower for adults than the 2017 counts in the Fording River upstream of Josephine Falls. Fish counts for juveniles were 96% lower in Harmer Creek and 25% lower in Grave Creek, while fish counts for adults were 26% lower in Harmer Creek and 25% higher in Grave Creek compared to 2018 counts. Harmer and Grave Creeks are located in watersheds adjacent to Teck’s Line Creek and Elkview Operations and flow into the Elk River 4.5 km south of the confluence of the Elk and Fording Rivers. The final Upper Fording River report can be found here.
 
The reasons for the lower fish counts are unknown at this time. Teck has established a team of external experts led by Beth Power, a Registered Professional Biologist and Approved Professional with over 30-years experience, to evaluate possible causes and deliver a report. Using science and local knowledge, the expert team is examining a range of possible causes including water quality, water use, predation, food availability and algae among others. 
 
Teck is also working with the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government regulators, the Environmental Monitoring Committee and the Elk Valley Fish and Fish Habitat Committee to gather more data, evaluate possible causal factors and address ongoing protection of fish. We are taking precautionary measures to limit handling and sampling of fish and limit water use at our operations during low-flow periods.

Teck’s approach to sustainability includes a comprehensive research and development program that has led to the development of breakthrough technologies including:

  • Saturated Rock Fill technology to treat mine-impacted water.

  • The development of a new nitrate prevention technique that uses liners that prevent explosives with nitrate from coming in contact with water. 

Teck has more than 25 research and development projects underway, including the advancement of smaller, in-situ water treatment facilities that can be built closer to where treatment is needed.

Elk Valley Water Treatment Facilities

We are building water treatment facilities at our Elk Valley operations to ensure the health of the watershed.


Water Treatment Technologies

We are using innovative water treatment technologies to achieve the objectives of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.

Saturated Rock Fills use naturally-occurring biological processes in former mining areas that have been backfilled with rock and saturated with water to remove selenium and nitrate:

  1. Water for treatment is injected into the SRF

  2. Natural bacteria convert dissolved forms of selenium into a solid form which remains securely stored in the SRF and nitrate to inert nitrogen gas which is safely released

  3. Treated water is pumped out of the SRF and discharged

The benefits of SRF over other forms of water treatment:

  • Quicker to build and less complex to operate

  • Lower capital and operating costs

  • Treat larger volumes of water

  • Use less energy

  • Smaller environmental footprint

 

This biological treatment process removes nitrate and transforms selenium into a solid form through a process that includes the following steps:

  • Biological treatment to convert dissolved forms of selenium to solid form

  • Nitrate is converted into inert nitrogen gas and safely released

  • Solid selenium is extracted and safely disposed of in a secure onsite waste facility

  • Treated water is discharged

Clean water diversions involve the construction of earthen dikes or other physical barriers and/or pipes to direct clean water around mining activities.

Biodiversity and Mining

Biodiversity and Mining

At Teck, we are working to achieve our vision of a net positive impact on biodiversity in areas affected by our activities.

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Feedback

To learn more and provide feedback please fill out this form or contact us at

  •     1.855.806.6854

  •     feedbackteckcoal@teck.com

If you leave your contact details, we will respond directly to you.

 


Research and Monitoring Reports

Research and Monitoring Reports
Results of ongoing water quality research and monitoring undertaken as part of the Elk Valley Water Quality Plan.
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Community Connections

Community Connections
Read our latest newsletter
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Teck

Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal and zinc, as well as investments in energy assets.